How to Be a Good Client

How to Be a Good Client

If you’re planning on hiring a freelancer or small business to work for you, and you want to know how to be a good client, this article is for you.

As a freelancer/independent contractor, I have encountered some amazing clients. The kind of clients who make me want to do the work for free. The kinds of clients who say “There are things I know that you don’t and there are things you know that I don’t. The project will be amazing if we both educate each other.”

And I have also encountered some horrible clients. The kind of clients who made me want to quit my profession and live in a cave away from people the rest of my life. The kind of clients who say things like, “Can you do 10 hours of work for me by Monday? Payment? Oh yeah, I can through you a few dollars when it’s done.”

When I really thought about the difference between these two kinds of people, I realized I could probably create a simple guide that teaches you how to be a good client. Many people have had bad experiences in the past and as a result, become a bad client without meaning to. They may not understand what is expected of them and as a result, find themselves with a negative experience without really knowing why.

If that’s you – read on! If you’re a freelancer who needs to set boundaries early – read on! Here are some guidelines to remember when going into a new relationship with a freelancer or small business owner.

 

Don’t hire me if you don’t want to

More often than not, I’ve had people hire me or try to hire me when they very obviously were not ready. There is this pressure to move your business forward that some freelancers – like web designers, graphic designers, consultants, etc. – may inadvertently put on you. I know I’m guilty of this myself. But it’s only because we know our services can help you grow.

That being said, if you aren’t in the place – financially or mentally – to hire someone, make that clear. We are usually more than happy to talk to you, consult, and explain what you may need in the future if we understand you aren’t ready to hire just yet. There is nothing worse for either side than hiring someone to do something that you don’t actually want to do or can’t follow through with yet. It makes the whole process harder and wastes everyone’s time and money.

Do your research, but listen to me and trust me

You will run into some people who may be trying to scam you or who may be completely full of it. But at the same time, if you’re hiring someone to perform a service that you yourself don’t know how to do, please recognize that and find some humility. It’s totally fine to do outside research. In fact, most freelancers appreciate a client who is already knowledgeable about the subject at hand. It means you’ll ask the right questions and know what you want.

At the same time, if you’re looking to hire an expert, treat them as such. Second guessing and doubting someone consistently only builds mistrust and bad energy. If you’re doubtful about something, ask questions in a non-accusatory way. Send along an email along the lines of, “Hey! I noticed you did x-y-z yesterday. I was curious about what the benefit of that was?”

Be respectful of my time

Just because someone is a freelancer and doesn’t have an office, LLC, or overhead doesn’t mean their time is not valuable.

I’ll say it again.

Just because someone is a freelancer and doesn’t have an office, LLC, or overhead doesn’t mean their time is not valuable. 

It seems to be a common mentality that hiring a freelancer is like granting a favor to that individual and that they are lucky to have your business. This is not true. Many freelancers get bombarded with requests for services and they have chosen you out of many. They have a lot of other things to do; not only work for other clients but the things they need to do on a daily business to keep their business running. Not to mention their own personal lives.

If your freelancer sets office hours or deadlines, you should respect them. If they send you an email, reply in a timely fashion (less than 24 hours is best). Most can be flexible, but please don’t expect your freelancer to be available 24/7 just because they don’t work in an office. Please don’t expect it to be okay for you to miss deadlines just because you’re working with a person and not a corporation.

Be informed

The best clients are proactive clients. The ones who listen, pay attention during meetings, take notes, do their own research, and ask questions. Before asking a out-of-the-blue question of your freelancer, ask yourself a few things:

  • Is this something that has been explained to me before?
  • Is this something I can Google and find an answer for?
  • Is this something I need to ask immediately or something that can wait until our next scheduled conversation?

40% of questions I get asked either have been answered by me in an previous conversation, are available with a simple Google search, or can wait. No one appreciates being woken by an email at 4am with a question that was already addressed a month ago.

Don’t go into it with a negative point of view

Perhaps you’ve dealt with a freelancer or small biz owner in the past who totally screwed you over. Maybe you think you’re paying more than what you think the service is worth. It happens. It sucks. But please don’t treat every single freelancer in the future as though they’ve already wronged you or as though they are trying to rip you off.

Often, I’ve spoken to potential clients who treat me as though I’m working in my parents basement as a hobby. They immediately adapt this idea of who I am and what my values are. Not only are they usually inaccurate, but they are offensive and devalue everything I have worked to achieve. Freelancers tend to work harder than people who work for agencies or corporations because they not only have client work to do, but they run a business all by themselves. They are more often than not very hard-working people and deserve your respect until proven dishonest.

Be completely clear and honest with me about expectations

There are no assumptions in a business relationship. If you want something, you have to ask for it in the clearest way you can. A freelancer will always appreciate getting more information than needed as opposed to not enough information. By hiring a freelancer, you are not hiring someone to think for you. You’re hiring someone to do something that you don’t know how to do. That being said, explain everything you need from your end as much as you can, then set them loose.

Set aside time to work with me

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried connecting with a client who is too busy to talk to me, doesn’t return emails or calls, or gives short answers without detail or attention. Again, it all boils down to respect. If you want me to make this project a priority, you must do so as well. This doesn’t mean you should make yourself available 24/7, dropping what you have to do to talk to me. But be willing to schedule regular meetings to discuss roadblocks. If you’re too busy when you get a call or email, send a quick message letting me know and telling me when you will be free to answer. Shortened, yet informative responses are better than no responses at all.

 

There you have it! Are you a freelancer with client horror stories or suggestions for future clients? Leave them in the comments!

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What the Heck Are Hashtags?

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]As a millennial, it’s hard for me to imagine a world without the Internet. While I remember a time before going on the computer was a daily thing for me, so much of Internet culture has been burned into my brain and now comes second nature. Sometimes I find it hard to imagine not knowing certain things. One of those things that friends and clients new to social media ask me a lot are “what are hashtags?” Because I know so well, it’s been hard for me to explain up until now.

From the beginnings of social media, I’d had a pretty thorough understanding of hashtags, what they are, what they’re for, and why they’re beneficial. So many people using them incorrectly has distorted people’s ability to understand their benefit. As a result, I see so many business owner friends posting on social media and not using hashtags, then wondering sadly why they aren’t generating more traffic to their posts.

So, here’s your crash course on hashtags. When to use them, how to make them, why they’re important, and more! I’ll explain hashtag use per social media platform a little later in order to make it a little easier.

 

First of all, what are hashtags?

The following are hashtags:

  1. this is a #hashtag
  2. #thisisahashtag
  3. #ThisIsAHashtag

With the three examples above, #1 is one hashtag. You’re hashtagging the word “hashtag”. For 2 and 3, they are the same hashtag – the phrase “this is a hashtag”. However, #3 has camel case (when each word is capitalized) to make it easier to read.

The following are not functional hashtags:

  1. # this is a hashtag
  2. # thisisahashtag
  3. this is a hashtag#

Notice the spaces and the placement of the hashtag. The hashtag symbol should be at the beginning and stuck to all the letters in the words you want included. As soon as there’s a space, the hashtag stops working.

What do hashtags do?

A hashtag is a word or phrase that, by adding a hash symbol before it (#) you are categorizing that piece of content to be included in a list of other content that uses that same hashtag. Most social media platforms have a search bar you can use to search for a hashtagged word or phrase and find a ton of content about that topic. It’s a way of making sure your content is included in that particular conversation.

The three most important places to use hashtags will be Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Hashtags only just became usable on LinkedIn and, as of September 2016, are only available on mobile. They should be used the same way as Facebook. You can also use hashtags on Google+, but people don’t really use Google+ so I’m not going to waste my time, I’m just going to link you to this awesome little article in case you’re interested in learning more.

Facebook

If you aren’t using hashtags on Facebook, it’s not a huge deal. They aren’t as popular and powerful here as they are on Twitter and Instagram. If your audience is socially savvy, you may want to use them just to be safe. However, if you’re targeting people who aren’t super familiar with them, it’s safe to skip them.

It’s been shown that on average on Facebook, the more hashtags you use, the lower your engagement rate. 1 or 2 is okay but any more than that may hurt you. For Facebook, the best time to use hashtags is for some kind of event.

Here’s an example. In 2015, I attended WordCamp Miami which is this awesome conference of people who love WordPress. They had a hashtag across all platforms – #wcmia2015. There is no process to “creating a hashtag” other than using it and asking other people to use it, too. When someone posted on Facebook using the hashtag, all the other attendees could see it by searching for the hashtag on Facebook. It was a great way to keep everyone conversing and a way for the organizers to make announcements that would reach everyone.

So, when should I use hashtags?: If you’re hosting an event or something you want to keep track of engagement for. Always remember to tell attendees to use your hashtag if they are sharing info on the event. This goes for every platform, but for Facebook, it’s the main way it would help you.

Instagram

Here is where hashtagging gets serious. Even though Instagram is a highly visual platform, the hashtags are probably the most important part to getting engagement and building traffic to your profile. The hard thing about social media is that unless someone sees an ad you’ve launched or has a direct link to your profile, they may never see your posts. If you’re using hashtags, every search for those hashtags an opportunity for you to grow your audience.

With Instagram, you want to do some research. First, make a list of the things you’re talking about in your post. For example, when I promote my Facebook ads webinar, I use the following hashtags because they’re revelant: “#facebook, #ads, #facebookads, #advertising, #onlinemarketing, #internetmarketing, #socialmedia, #webinar, #free, #freewebinar”

Now, search each one of your chosen hashtags in the Instagram app and check out the most popular posts. If I search #facebook in Instagram, I’ll get 9 top posts, and then a stream of the most recent posts using that hashtags. I’ll check out the top posts to see what other related hashtags they use. Remember – only use hashtags that are related to your content. Stuffing with irrelevant keywords in order to attract a larger audience is spam.

10-15 hashtags per post is usually okay for Instagram. Much more than that and you aren’t being specific enough. You should also list your hashtags at the end of your post as opposed to using hashtags in the meat of your description. Here an example.

So, when should I use hashtags: ALWAYS.  You should never post on Instagram without hashtags unless you already have an enormous following of thousands of people. If you’re trying to earn organic engagement and followers, use relevant hashtags at the end of every post.

Twitter

The point of hashtags on Twitter is much the same as it is on Instagram. I explained a little bit about Twitter hashtags above. Here are some other things you should know about Twitter.

  • You only have 140 characters, so it’s okay to hashtag pieces of your tweet as opposed to putting them at the end. For example: “Sign up for my free #Facebook #webinar!” is a pretty ideal tweet. This is opposed to “Sign up for my free Facebook webinar! #free #webinar” which is a waste of characters because I’m using the same words twice.
  • Only use 1-3 hashtags per tweet. Any more than that and your tweet just looks like one big hashtag. People want to focus on the content first and the hashtags should kind of be an afterthought as you’re reading.
  • Keep an eye on the trending hashtags. There are often joke hashtags you can use to jump into new conversations and add some personality to your profile. For example “ThursdayThought” and “DescribeYourselfIn5Words” are both trending today. No matter what your niche, these are fun ways to come up with new content and create a personal connection with your audience.

So, when should I use hashtags?: Same as Instagram – always unless you already have tons of followers. At least one every single Tweet. Remember to work them in, only use relevant tweets, utilize them for events, and keep an eye on what’s trending.

Pinterest

Short answer, just in case you were wondering – don’t use hashtags on Pinterest. So many people want to stuff them in wherever they see an opportunity because they magically believe they will improve traffic. Pinterest actually frowns on the use of hashtags and doesn’t register them in searches.

So, when should I use hashtags?: Never.

 

So, that’s hashtags! I hope I was able to clear things up a little for you. If you have any questions about hashtags or the weirdness that is social media marketing, leave them in the comments below![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

SEO Guide for Beginners

As a companion piece to this post, I’ve created the SEO Task Kit  – a series of spreadsheets that will help you track, organize, and accomplish all the tasks I identify below! You can print it or download your own copy to Google Drive and edit it to your hearts content!

One of the most common questions I get asked by friends, family, and clients is “What is SEO? How do I DO it?” My answer is always this: SEO is a process. It’s not a thing you do or complete, but a series of tasks that over time help your webpage rank higher and higher on Google’s search result pages. While it can be an arduous or complex process, there are tons of SEO best practices you can easily accomplish. I touched on this in a previous post – How to Improve Your Website SEO In An Afternoon. In this post, I want to provide an SEO guide for beginners. I want to drill down a bit more and give you some more information about how to improve the SEO on your site and within your content.

If you’re a beginner, you may not know that SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It describes activities you can do to improve your website’s chance of appearing in results for search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. There are two forms of SEO: On-page SEO and Off-Page SEO.

 

What is On-Page SEO?

On-Page SEO is all of the SEO activities you can perform through the website and how the website performs.

Google in particular has bots that crawl every single site on the web that look for key factors to determine if a site is reliable, informative, relevant, and up-to-date. We know that there are certain things the bots like for a site to have:

  • A Title and Meta Description
  • Between 300-800 words of content
  • Images
  • Links to other websites
  • Links to other pages on the same website
  • Links from other websites to this page
  • Links from the same website to this page
  • Bullet points or lists
  • Bold and italicized text
  • Headings and subheadings
  • Menus and Footers
  • Proper URL structures (google.com/search instead of google.com/search/ZGVLG_sAd)
  • Breadcrumbs and user sitemaps
  • Pages that load quickly
  • Google verification
  • Fresh content
  • No broken links

What is a Keyword Strategy?

Optimizing for an SEO keyword means developing a keyword strategy and then utilizing the keywords you choose within some of the factors above. A keyword strategy is where you take the main concept or idea you want to rank for and break it down into manageable goals. (For some great detailed information about keyword strategies, check out this awesome SEO ebook written by a friend of mine who really knows his stuff – he taught me everything I know about keyword strategy! Through this link you can download a free chapter before you buy.)

Say you are a company in Miami that sells baby strollers. You want to eventually rank for “Miami baby strollers” or even just eventually “baby strollers”. But consider how many millions of pages on the web are about baby strollers.

Developing a keyword strategy means taking your large keyword “baby strollers” and developing a list of long-tail keywords, or keywords that have more words but are closer to actual search terms. For example, your long-tail keywords may be:

  • “Where can I buy baby strollers in Miami?”
  • “What makes a quality baby stroller?”
  • “How do I clean a baby stroller”
  • “What age should I stop using a baby stroller”

Not all of these are directly related to actually buying a stroller. But if you optimize inner pages for long-tail keywords, all of which contain your main keyword, your ranking for all of them will rise.To optimize for a specific keyword, you simply use the keyword in the on-page SEO for that page.

To optimize for a keyword via On-Page SEO, you would:

  • Use the keyword in your title and meta description
  • Use the keyword regularly within your 300-800 words of content
  • Use the keyword in the ALT tag and filename for your images
  • Make sure that if you link to another page, you use the keyword in the anchor text. That means if you say “click here to learn about baby strollers”, you will make the whole sentence or just “baby strollers” clickable instead of just “click here”
  • Use the keyword in your headings, subheadings and URLs

This also means continuously adding content to your website that contains the keyword, like blog posts and images.

Action: Create a keyword strategy : Define your main keyword and make a list of related terms to use in your-onpage SEO. Communicate to search engines that the page has the most reliable and reputable information related to that specific search term.

Off-Page SEO: Off-Page SEO involves things you can do off of the website. The most popular and reputable are link building
 and social media

Link Building

If your page is being linked to from elsewhere, it tells search engines the site has good information. Lots of links from good, reputable websites means a better ranking. If another site about baby supplies, toys or clothes links to you, that’s favorable. A link from a site about car tires won’t hold the same weight. You can do this by:

  • Creating as many profiles as directories as you can, such as Google Places, Yelp, etc.
  • Have other people write on their blogs about your website and include a link back
  • Create Slideshare or Youtube videos that link back to your site
  • Find mentions of your company on the web that don’t link back to you, contact the author and ask them to include a link
  • Submit your site to website feedback sites
  • If you have a blog, submit to a blog aggregator

Any accounts you create should have exactly the same Business Name, Address, Phone Number and website URL.

There are many more. Depending on your content, some will work and some won’t. Link Building can be intensive and time-consuming, but the rewards are powerful.

Action: Add links to your site on other places on the web

How: Find directories and other sites that you can use to talk about your site and provide links to your content

Result: Communicate to search engines that other reputable pages on the web view you as a reliable source of relevant and topical information

 

Social Media

Sites like Facebook and Twitter already rank high on Google. You should be:

  • Creating social media profiles for as many platforms as you can. (For the ones you don’t intend to use regularly, add some posts to so they aren’t empty.
  • Posting regularly on at least a few and linking back to your content
  • Making sure all any profiles you create should have exactly the same Business Name, Address, Phone Number and website URL.

Larger followings and more frequent popular posts will push you ahead of other similar accounts. So if another company in Miami sells baby strollers, if you post on Facebook more frequently and have a larger and more active following, you’ll come up sooner.

Action: Use social media accounts for SEO

How: Build a following and post keyword rich information 

Result: Communicate to search engines that your profile is the best one for your given sector